Following meetings with each of the political parties, we are pleased to report that it has had a significant impact on the three major parties’ own general election manifestos.
For the first time, the values of mutualism feature strongly in the three manifestos and specific policy pledges have been made that could help to develop mutuals. In alphabetical order, the summary response is below:
The main narrative of the Conservative manifesto is one of ‘an invitation to join the Government of Britain’ through the creation of a participatory ‘big society’ that encourages citizen involvement and empowerment. This theme of self-help runs through the whole document, with proposals to give more say to citizens and increasing their opportunities for engagement with decision making.
Public Services & Employee ownership
In a section called ‘Reform public services to deliver better value,’ the manifesto includes proposals to give public sector workers ownership of the services they deliver through employee-led firms.
‘Giving public sector workers ownership of the services they deliver is a powerful way to drive efficiency, so we will support co-operatives and mutualisation as a way of transferring public assets and revenue streams to public sector workers. We will encourage them to come together to form employee-led co-operatives and bid to take over the services they run. This will empower millions of public sector workers to become their own boss and help them to deliver better services – the most significant shift in power from the state to working people since the sale of council houses in the 1980s.’
Child Trust Funds
The Conservatives have pledged to scrap CTFs for ‘all but the poorest third of families and families with disabled children.’
Financial Services Authority
‘A Conservative government will promote responsible consumer finance by creating a powerful Consumer Protection Agency (CPA) to take over the Financial Services Authority’s consumer protection role.’
‘We will abolish Gordon Brown’s failed tripartite system of regulation and put the Bank of England in charge of prudential supervision. We will restore the Bank’s historic role in monitoring the overall growth of credit and debt in the economy. In addition, we will:
• pursue international agreement to prevent retail banks from engaging in activities, such as large-scale proprietary trading, that put the stability of the system at risk;
• empower the Bank of England to crack down on risky bonus arrangements;
• increase competition in the banking industry, starting with a study of competition in the sector to inform our strategy for selling the government’s stakes in the banks; and,
• as the government comes to sell off its holdings in the banks, offer a ‘people’s bank bonus’, so that everybody in the country has the chance to buy a stake in the state-owned banks.’
NHS Foundation Trusts
‘We will set NHS providers free to innovate by ensuring that they become autonomous Foundation Trusts.’
‘Drawing on the experience of the Swedish school reforms and the charter school movement in the United States, we will break down barriers to entry so that any good education provider can set up a new Academy school.
• give parents the power to save local schools threatened by closure, allowing communities the chance to take over and run good small schools’
Community Ownership & Football Supporter Trusts
‘Nothing underlines the powerlessness that many communities feel more than the loss of essential services, like post offices and pubs, because of decisions made by distant bureaucrats. Our new ‘community right to buy’ scheme will give local people the power to protect any community assets that are threatened with closure.
In addition, we will:
• give people a ‘right to bid’ to run any community service instead of the state; and,
• reform the governance arrangements in football to enable co-operative ownership models to be established by supporters.’
The Labour Party narrative also speaks of the role that mutuals can play in public services, ‘above all we will build public services that are more personal to people’s needs: with clear guarantees about standards…and with new ways of organising services such as mutuals.’
Building Societies, Banking & Northern Rock
We will ensure greater competition in the banking sector, breaking up those banks in which the Government currently has a controlling stake.
The proposed Office of Fair Trading review into how City markets operate is welcome.
We value the role of building societies owned by their customers and the strength and diversity that a healthy mutual sector brings to our financial services, and we will consult on measures to help strengthen the sector.
As one option for the disposal of Northern Rock, we will encourage a mutual solution, while ensuring that the sale generates maximum value for money for the taxpayer.’
It goes on to pledge support for more employee ownership in a section called ‘Creating a shareholding society,’ it says ‘We want Britain’s workers to have a stake in their company by widening share ownership and creating more employee owned and trust-owned businesses. We want to see a step change in the role of employee-owned companies in the economy, recognising that many entrepreneurs would like to see their companies in the hands of their employees when they retire. We will review any outstanding barriers to the formation of more employee companies like the John Lewis Partnership.’
Child Trust Funds
‘For the next generation we will protect – not cut – the Child Trust Fund – the world’s first universal savings policy for young people, already giving 4.8 million children a nest egg for the future. We will contribute an additional £100 a year to the Child Trust Funds of all disabled children.’
We want to strengthen parental engagement with Sure Start Children’s Centres. Some voluntary and third-sector organisations already run networks of Centres, and we will now pioneer mutual federations running groups of local Children’s Centres in the community interest.
‘We are pioneering new co-operative trust schools where parents, teachers and the local community come together to help govern their local school.’
NHS Foundation Trusts
‘We will continue to press ahead with bold NHS reforms. All hospitals will become Foundation Trusts, with successful FTs given the support and incentives to take over those that are underperforming.
Failing hospitals will have their management replaced. Foundation Trusts will be given the freedom to expand their provision into primary and community care, and to increase their private services – where these are consistent with NHS values, and provided they generate surpluses that are invested directly into the NHS.
To strengthen local accountability, we will increase the membership of Foundation Trusts to over three million by the end of the next Parliament.’
Empowering NHS staff and enabling mutuals
‘Central to our agenda for improvement is the hardworking NHS workforce. We will continue the process of empowering staff – freeing them from bureaucracy and ensuring they get proper support.
We will expand the role of NHS nurses, particularly in primary care, in line with the best clinical evidence. And across the NHS we will extend the right for staff, particularly nurses, to request to run their own services in the not for-profit sector.’
Football Supporter Trusts
We will work with governing authorities to ensure that professional clubs are accountable to their stakeholders, and run transparently on sound financial principles, with greater involvement of local communities and supporter representation.
Sports governing bodies will be empowered to scrutinise takeovers of clubs, ensuring they are in the long-term interests of the club and the sport. We will develop proposals to enable registered Supporters Trusts to buy stakes in their club.
In a section entitled ‘The New Mutualism,’ the manifesto states, ‘there is growing interest in co-operative and mutual organisations that people trust, and that have the capacity to unleash creativity and innovation, creating new jobs and services – particularly in disadvantaged neighbourhoods where traditional approaches have failed in the past. We want to see more local organisations run on cooperative principles with an expansion of Community Interest Companies and third sector mutual organisations that reinvest profits for the public good.’
To give more people a stake in a highly valued national asset, British Waterways will be turned into a mutually owned co-operative.
We will review the structures that oversee English Heritage, putting mutual principles at the heart of its governance so that people can have a direct say over the protection and maintenance of Britain’s built historical legacy.
We will promote the use of community shares that support investment in football clubs, pubs, renewable energy and shops.
Community Land Trusts enable local people to purchase and run local amenities and assets in their area such as youth facilities, parks and open spaces. We will promote the transfer of buildings and land to the ownership or control of voluntary and community groups.
Rural villages should never be left without essential services. Councils now have to ensure that the importance of local services to the community is taken into account before granting planning permission to change their use, and we will strengthen this to protect viable shops, pubs and community facilities. We will continue to encourage and support imaginative solutions in rural communities to the provision of locally owned services.
Liberal Democrat Party
As with the other two Parties, the Liberal Democrats have been influenced by the strong debate put forward for mutuals.
In a section entitled, ‘supporting mutuals, co-ops and social enterprises’ the Liberal Democrat manifesto outlines their belief ‘that mutuals, co-operatives and social enterprises have an important role to play in the creation of a more balanced and mixed economy. Mutuals give people a proper stake in the places they work, spreading wealth through society, and bringing innovative and imaginative business ideas to bear on meeting local needs.’
Financial Services Authority
‘We will give financial regulators a clear objective of maintaining a diversity of providers in the financial services industry.’
‘We will seek to turn Northern Rock into a building society.’
Employee Ownership & Royal Mail
‘We will give both Royal Mail and post offices a long-term future, by separating Post Office Ltd from the Royal Mail and retaining Post Office Ltd in full public ownership. 49 per cent of Royal Mail will be sold to create funds for investment. The ownership of the other 51 per cent will be divided between an employee trust and the government.’
‘We will encourage community-owned renewable energy schemes where local people benefit from the power produced.’
Legislation and Mutuals Minister
‘We will pass a new Mutuals, Co-operatives and Social Enterprises Bill to bring the law up to date and give responsibility for mutuals to a specific minister.’
‘We will empower local communities to improve health services through elected Local Health Boards, which will take over the role of Primary Care Trust boards in commissioning care for local people, working in co-operation with local councils.
Over time, Local Health Boards should be able to take on greater responsibility for revenue and resources to allow local people to fund local services which need extra money.’
Child Trust Funds
‘We will put in place cuts which could be realised within the financial year, such as scrapping the Child Trust Fund or restricting tax credits, to release money for our jobs and infrastructure package.